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What to Do If You Have a Dental Emergency: A Guide to Handling Unexpected Situations

Emergencies happen without warning, and in the world of oral health, dental emergencies are no different. Understanding what constitutes a dental emergency and responding promptly can make all the difference. 

For those residing in Columbus, Ohio, knowing where to turn can save not only your tooth but also your peace of mind.

Understanding the Different Types of Dental Emergencies

Toothaches and Infections– Unpredictable Pain and a Need for Action

Toothaches might seem common, but they're not to be taken lightly. Causes can range from cavities and gum disease to a simple piece of trapped food (1). When the pain intensifies or refuses to fade, it's crucial to seek advice. 

By addressing toothaches promptly, you reduce the risk of infections escalating into more severe complications.

Chipped or Broken Tooth – A Slip, a Fall, and a Swift Response

Accidents, hard foods, or even a simple fall can lead to a chipped or broken tooth. If left untreated, this exposes the inner layers to bacteria, leading to potential infections or further breakage (2). 

This is why immediate care, even for seemingly minor chips – is crucial.

Knocked-Out Tooth – Every Second Counts

Experiencing a knocked-out tooth can be a distressing event, especially for parents and athletes. Here's what you should do immediately if you or someone you know faces this situation:

  • Handle the tooth by its crown: This is the part of the tooth you usually see.
  • Rinse gently: If the tooth has fallen onto a dirty surface, give it a gentle rinse with water. 
  • Try reinserting it: Make sure it's facing the right way. If reinsertion isn't possible...
  • Place the tooth in milk: This helps preserve its structure until you can get professional assistance (3).

Remember, after following these steps, it's vital to head straight to your dentist for further care.

Dental Abscess – A Silent Threat Lurking Below

Often stemming from untreated dental issues, a dental abscess is a pocket of pus caused by bacterial infections at the root of a tooth or between the gums. Symptoms include persistent pain, fever, and facial swelling. 

Treating abscesses quickly is crucial to prevent serious, potentially life-threatening complications (4).

Lost Crown or Filling – A Gap That Demands Attention  

While not always causing immediate pain, losing a crown or filling exposes the tooth, making it vulnerable to potential decay and increased sensitivity. It's essential to address such incidents swiftly and seek professional care to prevent further complications like infections.

Navigating Dental Emergencies at Night

Emergencies don't operate on a schedule; they can spring up any time, including the daunting nighttime hours. Handling dental emergencies at night presents its own set of challenges, but with the right approach, you can mitigate the damage before seeking professional help.

  • Stay Calm: The first step is not to panic. Staying calm allows you to think clearly and take effective action.
  • Assess the Situation: Determine the severity of the issue. Is it a chipped tooth, a knocked-out tooth, or a painful abscess? Understanding the problem will help you decide on the next steps.
  • Temporary Measures: Use over-the-counter pain relievers, salt water rinses, or cold compresses as temporary solutions to manage pain and discomfort.
  • Seek Immediate Assistance: If the situation is severe, consider reaching out to an emergency dental clinic or going to the nearest emergency room.
  • Follow-up: Always schedule an appointment with your regular dentist as soon as possible to address the issue comprehensively.

Navigating through a nighttime dental emergency can be stressful, but by taking steps and seeking prompt professional care, you can ensure the best outcome for your oral health.

Special Considerations: Children's Dental Emergencies

Children, with their boundless energy, can sometimes be accident-prone. From knocked-out teeth during playground fun to sudden toothaches at night, children's dental emergencies demand unique attention. 

Prompt care and a calm presence are important when dealing with children’s dental emergencies. Remember to keep your pediatric dentist’s number handy, remain calm to soothe your little one, and follow the offered guidance 

Pain Management: Before You Reach the Dentist

Experiencing a dental emergency can be both unsettling and painful. To alleviate discomfort and manage pain before seeing a professional, consider the following:

  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: These can offer initial relief.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Steer clear of hot or cold foods to prevent increased sensitivity.
  • Cold Compresses: Applying these can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.

While these strategies can provide temporary solace, it's essential to remember they are interim solutions. Prioritizing a professional consultation is imperative for lasting relief and proper care (5).

Estimating the Cost of Dental Emergency Visits in Columbus

Understanding the potential costs of dental emergencies can help you prepare and have peace of mind. Be aware that costs vary from clinic to clinic – here's a breakdown of the average costs you might expect for various situations:

  • Toothaches: $50 to $300 for a standard consultation, depending on severity (6)
  • Chipped/Broken Tooth: Restorations can range from $100 to $1,500 (6)
  • Knocked-Out Tooth: Reinsertion and treatments can vary from $100 to $500 (6)
  • Dental Abscess: Treatment can range from $200 to $2,000, depending on the procedure (6)
  • Lost Crown or Filling: Replacement typically costs between $50 and $1,000 (6

Remember, these are approximate numbers. Exact costs can vary based on clinic, severity, and required procedures.


Recognizing and addressing dental emergencies promptly isn’t just about saving a tooth – it's about preserving the beauty of your smile and overall well-being. With expert care available right here in Columbus, you're never alone in your oral health journey.

Dental Emergency FAQs

I've chipped my tooth – what immediate steps should I take during a dental emergency at night?

  • Immediate Care: Start by rinsing your mouth with warm water. If there's bleeding, gently press down with a piece of gauze or a soft cloth.
  • Avoid Further Damage: Refrain from eating hard or crunchy foods, and try to avoid the chipped area while chewing.
  • Temporary Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers can help, but avoid placing aspirin directly on the tooth or gums.
  • Protection: Consider using over-the-counter dental cement for temporary protection, especially if the chip results in a sharp or jagged edge.
  • Seek Professional Help: Even if the chip seems minor, it's crucial to visit a dentist as soon as possible to avoid complications.

My child knocked out a tooth – what are the first actions I should follow?

  • Handle with Care: Pick up the tooth by the crown, avoiding the root.
  • Rinse, Don't Scrub: If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse it with milk. Avoid any scrubbing or using tap water.
  • Reinsertion: Try placing the tooth back in its socket, ensuring it faces the right direction. If that's not possible, store it in a container of milk or a tooth-preservation product.
  • Immediate Dental Visit: It's essential to see a dentist immediately, as time is of the essence in saving the tooth.

Experiencing severe toothache – which temporary dental emergency pain relief methods are safe?

  • Cold Compress: Apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth to the affected area for 15 minutes.
  • Over-the-Counter Relief: Pain relievers like ibuprofen can help temporarily. However, ensure it's suitable for you or your child and avoid exceeding the recommended dosage.
  • Saltwater Rinse: Gently swish with a warm saltwater solution (1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water) to help reduce inflammation and clear away irritants.
  • Avoid Certain Foods: Stay away from very hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods that can exacerbate pain.
  • Professional Consultation: While these methods can offer short-term relief, it's essential to consult a dentist to address the root cause of the pain.

Remember, these measures are for immediate and temporary relief. It's crucial to consult a dentist as soon as possible for comprehensive care.

Addressing Potential Dental Concerns

Emerging dental concerns? We're here to help. If something feels off, or you're unsure about a dental situation, don’t hesitate. Contact us at Greentree Dental in Columbus immediately at (614) 459 - 5511.

Your health is our priority, and we often accommodate same-day emergency consultations. Your peace of mind and radiant smile are just a call away.


  1. Mayo Clinic - Toothache: First Aid 
  2. Colgate - Broken Tooth? What You Need to Do 
  3. American Association of Endodontists - Traumatic Dental Injuries 
  4. Healthline - Dental Abscess 
  5. WebMD - Dental Health and Pain Management 
  6. CostHelper Health - Dental Emergency Cost

Contact Us

We look forward to hearing from you. Call 614.459.5511 or request an appointment online to get started.